He left his home country for Linköping University. She travels every year to keep herself updated with the international climate politics. Luka Šafarič and Maria Jernnäs are PhD students at Tema M – Environmental Change.

How is it to be a PhD student here?
– It’s interesting. In the beginning it can feel strange to be 2000 km away from everyone you know, but it also feels good and exciting, Luka Šafarič says. He studied microbiology in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, but has now been a PhD student for three and a half years at Linköping University since he found the Marie Curie project.

He especially thinks it is nice to be part of an interdisciplinary division, and this is something Maria Jernnäs actually has written a debate article about. Earlier this year she and her PhD colleague Emelie Fälton argued in Universitetsläraren, a members’ magazine by The Swedish Association of University teachers and Researchers (SULF), that an interdisciplinary background should not bring disadvantages.

– The way I come at a problem is not the only way. Here at Tema M you cannot get stuck in one mindset, since all the people you meet use different methods, Maria Jernnäs says about the variety of analysis traditions at Environmental Change.

Maria Jernnäs has been a PhD student for a year. She already studied at Linköping University before and has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a master’s degree in International and European Relations. In 2015 she was a research assistant for CSPR (Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research) and went to Paris for the Climate Change Conference COP21.

– This year I’ll be in Bonn when they follow up the Paris Agreement, Maria Jernnäs says. Also as a PhD student she wants to keep herself updated with the international climate negotiations, as her doctoral project focuses on international climate policy.

It is easier to find Luka Šafarič in the lab – or in the labs, in plural. He shows us different rooms with several biogas reactors. The smallest rooms require a temperature of 37 degrees Celsius and researchers regularly analyze the biogas reactor fluid in relation to different substrate mixtures. Improving the efficiency of biogas production (i.e. producing more gas at a lower cost) is a challenge.

– How do microorganisms react to different chemical elements and how can we use this knowledge to affect the energy consumption? Luka Šafarič explains his research field.

– I find it fascinating that we can harness the existing processes in nature to minimize our negative impacts on the environment, he continues.

Generally Luka Šafarič has an optimistic perspective on the contemporary environmental challenges. He and Maria Jernnäs both want to contribute to finding solutions, but in the conversation she becomes thoughtful.

– What does it really mean to find a solution? Is it to keep the global warming under a certain temperature?

Both PhD students are teaching undergraduate students and wish to spread a critical approach in the search for their own answers. The university has offered pedagogical courses to guide PhD students in the teaching process.

– In the beginning you also may teach along with someone more experienced and get feedback this way, Luka Šafarič says.

ATBEST (Advanced Technologies for Biogas Efficiency, Sustainability and Transport)